When he was six years old, Ryan Hreljak heard about the Ugandan people and their lack of water. He decided to earn the money to dig them a well. At six years old, Ryan earned seventy dollars. Proudly he took the money to his teacher at school to forward to the Ugandans. She had to explain to this little six-year-old that each well cost $2000. But Ryan was undaunted. He simply began to enlist the help of other people. Ryan got results.
Ten years later, by age sixteen, Ryan has raised over $1,000,000, dug 319 wells in 14 countries, and provided water for almost ½ million people. (http://www.ryanswell.ca/)
What has sustained Ryan’s efforts for over ten years? He has seen his projects benefit others over and over again. Helping others motivates! Helping others motivates a person to keep going in the same direction over a long period of time.
This is the third key area of purpose: helping others.
Having been in education for a number of years, I have found that teachers are motivated by “seeing the light turn on” when a child grasps a new concept. Policemen, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, builders, pastors, engineers, all are motivated by the belief that they are serving a greater good. Mother Teresa served in the slums of Calcutta for fifty years because she saw the benefit to others. This key element of purpose enables a person to keep going in the same direction for a long time.
We are created with this social makeup that ties us to those around us. God said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God is love and he created people with this insatiable desire to love and be loved. We turn it into a romantic, sexual love, but it is deeper than that, isn’t it? Meaning in life stems from service to others. God planted this likeness of himself in us—this tendency, this nature that finds fulfillment in service to others. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.”
We must teach our children “otherness” from the beginning of their lives because it is the best refection of who God is. Before they start school, we teach them to share, to cooperate, to help, to work to contribute to the family. When we teach them these things, we are planting seeds of purpose that reflect eternal truth.
This awareness of others and living to benefit others is Christlike. Without it, life sours. With love for others, they can begin to experience the sweetness of a deeper meaning in life. They increase their capacity for joy. Jesus commented on joy in the context of love:
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
In summary, we can move our children toward “happiness” and joy by steering them toward purpose. Modern research regarding purpose is discovering the wisdom hidden in the Bible:
If we can do these three things, we have moved our children further down the road toward purpose, toward meaningful life work, and toward joy.